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Rwanda ex-president freed from prison after pardon

[JURIST] Rwandan President Paul Kagame [BBC profile] has pardoned former President Pasteur Bizimungu [BBC profile], freeing him Friday from a 15-year prison sentence [JURIST report] handed down in 2004 for inciting violence, embezzlement, organizing a militia, and associating with criminals. Bizimungu's release comes nearly a year after Bizimungu sent Kagame a letter in May 2006 asking for clemency [JURIST report], saying that he "never intended to commit any crime" and that his release would be "for the good of the nation."

Bizimungu had appealed his conviction [JURIST report] to the Rwandan Supreme Court, but the court rejected Bizimungu's arguments [JURIST report] that his arrest and conviction had been politically motivated and that he should not have been convicted on charges different from those on which he was arrested. Kagame, a Tutsi, served as vice-president while Bizimungu, a Hutu, was president. Their term in office was meant to unify the country following the 1994 genocide [BBC backgrounder; HRW backgrounder]. Reuters has more.

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